$8.2M Verdict Against 3M Company For Defective Combat Earplugs

On October 1, 2021, a federal jury in Pensacola, Florida found 3M Company and its subsidiary Aearo Technologies LLC liable for a former service member’s hearing loss and tinnitus, and awarded the plaintiff $8.2 million in damages for 3M’s failure to disclose that their combat earplugs were defective because they were too short to provide adequate hearing protection and were prone to coming loose without service members being aware of it.

This defective earplug case was the fourth bellweather case to be tried in the multidistrict litigation cases involving 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2), which were used by the Army from 2007 to 2013. The first defective earplug case was tried in April 2021 and resulted in a $7.1 million verdict for three plaintiffs. There were 259,130 defective earplug cases pending in federal court as of mid-August 2021, and about one thousand state-level cases pending in Minnesota. In 2015, Version 4 of the earplug replaced Version 2 and is still in use by the military.

There are six defective earplug trials scheduled to begin from November 2021 through February 2022. The November trials are scheduled to begin on November 1 (two trials) and on November 30. There are three trials scheduled for December 2021 and three consolidated cases to be tried together in February 2022. Of the five defective earplug cases that have been tried so far, only one resulted in a defense verdict. The typical plaintiff is an Army veteran between the ages of 30 and 49 who allege injuries involving hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

In 2008, 3M bought Aearo Technologies, which had developed the yellow and dark-green dual-ended earplugs called Combat Arms. 3M had an exclusive contract through the U.S. Department of Defense to provide the earplugs as standard issue to military personnel. The flexible cups on the side of the earplugs protruding from the ear sometimes had to be folded back in order to be effective. If the earplugs were not promperly used, they would loosen and dangerous levels of noise would enter the ear.

The veterans who used the earplugs allege that 3M failed to advise them of the need to fold the plugs and that they became aware of the issue only after 3M paid $9.1 million in 2018 to settle the government’s claims that it failed to disclose the defects: the U.S. Department of Justice announced on July 26, 2018 that “3M Company … has agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device … The settlement … resolves allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. Specifically, the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.”


The Department of Veterans Affairs advises that hearing loss and tinnitus are by far the most common and widespread service-related injuries.

If you or a family member used the allegedly defective Combat Arms earplug and suffered harm such as hearing loss or tinnitus, you should promplty contact a lawyer who may assist you with your possible claim. Contact us on our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to find defective earplug lawyers who may assist you.

Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 19th, 2021 at 5:26 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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